50+ years of memories: UC Santa Cruz Alumni Reunion Weekend

Gather, connect, rejoice, and reflect at Alumni Reunion Weekend 2024

Don Wallace (Cowell ’74) celebrates with family and friends after UCSC 1974 graduation.
Georgeanne Hanna (Cowell ’72) celebrates at Cowell College after UCSC 1972 graduation.
Sandy Barnes (Crown ’74) at a peace march in 1971.
Then and now photos of Diane (Stevenson ’75)  and Dennis Hagen (Stevenson ’73).

No letter grades, small class sizes, lunch with professors, and breathtaking views. These are just a few of the things alumni remember from UC Santa Cruz’s earliest days. The newest UC campus at the time, experimental in its design with its multi-college system and pedagogical approach to teaching, left a lasting impact on its founding students. 

For many of these alumni, UCSC isn't just a university; it's a transformative journey that continues to resonate throughout their lives. From the pioneering spirit of its founding days to the innovative ethos ingrained in its very foundation, UC Santa Cruz has left an indelible mark on each graduate, shaping their paths and fostering enduring connections. 

Join us as we come together to honor our shared history, celebrate our achievements, and reignite the spirit of camaraderie that defines the UCSC community at this year’s Alumni Reunion Weekend.

“This event holds a special place in the hearts of our alumni, serving as a cherished opportunity to reconnect, reminisce, and revel in the collective spirit of UC Santa Cruz,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor of Alumni Engagement John D. Pine. “I extend my deepest gratitude to our dedicated staff and volunteers whose commitment and passion bring this celebration to life.”

Alumni Reunion Weekend 2024 will be held April 12-14 throughout the university. The classes of 1965-74 are invited to return to UCSC for a weekend filled with events and gatherings curated by each college. The class of 1974 will be celebrating their 50th anniversary milestone.

Don Wallace (Cowell ’74) grew up in Long Beach and distinctly remembers the feeling of arriving on campus for the first time. The transition from attending an intercity high school to UCSC left a lasting impression. 

“Santa Cruz had these really caring teachers, faculty, and TAs, and in our day, we had pass/fail grading and faculty did narrative evaluations instead of letter grades,” Wallace recalled. “And for someone like me, I wanted to take classes and learn, but I had trouble with traditional ways of grading. Santa Cruz was a very welcoming environment. I could just totally relax, and I really learned a lot from my friends who wanted to learn and wanted to do interesting stuff, and we all sort of educated each other as we went along.”

Wallace is a volunteer for this year’s Alumni Reunion Weekend and is hosting Colloquium Creative Paths: Tales of Unusual Alumni Journeys—an alumni panel that will discuss how Cowell College and UCSC equipped them for one of the most change-filled 50 years in US and world history. Wallace said he is excited to make the journey from Hawaii to Santa Cruz to attend his 50th reunion weekend. 

“It's a chance for me to catch up with people, who I'm embarrassed to say, I haven't seen in years,” Wallace said. “I'm looking forward to seeing the campus, my friends, and even people I didn't know when I was there. It's just a very nice thing to do and a very rare opportunity, because you know, we ain't getting any younger.”

Sandy Barnes (Crown ’74) has volunteered at Alumni Reunion Weekend for the past couple of years. Last year, she hosted a reception for the Priscilla Parkins Memorial Scholarship Award. Parkins, a high school friend of Barne’s, died from a caving accident in her first year at UCSC. Her parents set up the scholarship award in her memory, and over 50 years later, Barnes continues to commemorate Parkins’s memory and amplifies the scholarship in her name.

This year, Barnes will host a program to remember Crown College’s first-ever provost, Kenneth V. Thimann. The event, Kenneth Thimann's Crown College, will showcase pictures of Provost Thimann and the founding faculty as well as samples of Thimann's speeches and interviews about the formation and early years of Crown College. Barnes says his classes and talks were some of the most influential she had ever experienced. 

“I remember listening to him, and though I never actually spoke to him, he would talk to us and I would be so stunned and inspired,” Barnes said. “It really felt that we were his students and that he had an investment in us.” 

Barnes is excited to reconnect with her fellow classmates at this year’s Alumni Reunion Weekend. 

“It's a great opportunity to see the people that are in the class of ’74 that I know, and because it's so easy, especially over the course of 50 years, to lose track of them and never be able to see them. I don't live in the area so I'm not a frequent visitor, but it's great to be back up on campus.”

Executive Director of Alumni Engagement Shayna Kent is thrilled to welcome back the classes of 1965-74, and is honored to celebrate the 50th reunion of the class of ’74.

“Alumni Reunion Weekend is a vibrant testament to the enduring bonds that unite UCSC alumni,” Kent said. “This year, as we eagerly anticipate commemorating the 50th reunion for the class of ’74, the excitement is palpable. It's a time-honored tradition and we look forward to welcoming back our alumni, reigniting old friendships, and forging new connections.” 

Register for Alumni Reunion Weekend 2024 today!

Remembering UC Santa Cruz’s Impact 

In UC Santa Cruz’s digital memory book, hundreds of alumni reflect on their journey during and after UCSC, the friends they made along the way, and their favorite campus spots and memories. Read just a few of their recollections:

“My favorite UCSC memory? A bunch of us were loitering in the hallway waiting for our lit professor to come open the classroom when Jasper Rose came gliding by and asked what we were up to. Someone said we were waiting for our Victorian Fiction class. To which Rose replied, ‘Oh, there is nothing more fascinating than Victorian Fiction! Unless, of course, it's Victorian fact!’”

- Lisa (Jensen) Aschbacher (Porter ’74)

“If I wasn’t in class you could find me hiking in the woods; having coffee or lunch at the Whole Earth Restaurant; singing with the choir; cycling to and from campus; attending art gallery shows, concerts, and aikido classes; walking along the beach at Natural Bridges.” 

- Georgeanne Hanna (Cowell ’72)

“My favorite activities were watching classic films with the fellow film students, and jamming musically with fellow musicians. During my college years and after, Santa Cruz was responsible for my whole musical foundation. Played in several bands there as a student and professionally for money."

- Paul Weber (Porter ’74) 

“Lit 101 first quarter with Jay Farness probably saved my life and set my course as a writer by telling me ‘you don't have to say anything in class, write it down in the journal.’” 

- Don Wallace (Cowell ’74) 

“I came to UCSC as a freshman in 1968, drawn by the (then) pristine beauty of the campus and its forest, as well as its radical, liberal arts experiment (no grades! small, seminar-style classes!) but the life-defining experience for me was becoming a clarinet student of the wonderful faculty teacher and former Boston Symphony Orchestra clarinetist, Rosario Mazzeo, who encouraged me to become a musical artist.”

- Margaret Thornhill (Crown ‘72)

Share your UCSC memories and update classmates on where you are now. If you haven’t received an email invite to access the digital memory book, contact Jesse Majane.